“W./E.” Explores the We
In Wallis and Edward
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
When I worked in the Bahamas, one of my staff lived in the apartment once occupied by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor – the royal couple exiled to this Commonwealth outpost when he gave up the British throne “for the woman I love.”
Thus, whenever we used the john, we referred to it as “sitting on the throne.”
King Edward VII and the American divorcée Wallis Simpson were the love story of their time (he abdicated in December 1936). You can relive this precursor to Charles and Camilla at the Tropic Cinema where “W./E.” is currently reigning.
“W./E.” explores this romance through the eyes of Wally Winthrop, a New Yorker who becomes obsessed with what she sees as the ultimate love story. Six decades after the royal couple married, this namesake begins to research Wallis and Edward in order to better understand something about her own marriage. She prowls Sotheby’s where the Windsor Estate is being auctioned off. But what she uncovers is a different story than found in the history books.
Skipping back and forth between the two stories (think: “Julie & Julia”), Wally (played by Abbie Cornish) compares her abusive marriage with the relationship of Wallis (Andrea Riseborough) and Edward (James D’Arcy), from their glamorous courtship to loss of the throne to the unhappy decades that followed.
Directed by Madonna (the singer), the film has received scathing reviews and has earned back only a million or so of its just-under $30-million production costs.
Why a movie about fallen royalty? Having lived in London with now-ex-hubby filmmaker Guy Ritchie (“Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”), Madonna has become something of an Anglophile. So it’s not surprising that she picked this oh-so-British subject for her second outing as a film director. Trying to show her stuff, she chose to be the film’s director, producer, screenwriter, and song composer. Meanwhile, Guy Ritchie has gone on to have success with the two “Sherlock Holmes” blockbusters starring Robert Downey, Jr.
On the other hand, Madonna (née Madonna Louise Ciccone) has sold more than 300 million albums worldwide and is recognized by Guinness World Records as the top-selling female recording artist of all time. Hmm, maybe this material girl should stick to what she’s good at.
Or do a sequel to her “Sex” book.
As for Wallis Simpson, she was never an Anglophile. She told her husband, “I hate this country. I shall hate it to my grave.” She was not allowed to be addressed as “Her Royal Highness.” And the Royal Family would not receive her formally or accept her as part of the family.
The Duke of Windsor served as governor of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas from 1940 to 1945. He was not a popular governor, often referring to the Bahamas as “a third-class British colony.” The editor of the Nassau Daily Tribune once told me that Wallis and Edward often fought in public. So much for the perfect love story.